Saturday, November 28, 2009

Movie: The Road

Today we went to see The Road at the new Cinemark Theater at Settlers Ridge. We met our friend T there. It was our first trip to the new theater. As expected for a new place, it was nice and clean inside. The snack bar sells Starbucks coffee, Tazo teas, Edy's ice cream, pizza, nachos, and the other usual movie theater treats. It is very nice to have a new theater in Robinson since the Showcase West is quite old.

The Road was a very, very good movie. But also a very, very bleak movie. I dare to say it was a wee bit uplifting at the end, but still pretty bleak! The movie is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, who also wrote No Country For Old Men. The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unnamed cataclysm that destroyed all civilization and, apparently, almost all life on earth.

After the movie, we went to Bocktown Beer & Grill for an early dinner and some beer to shake off the bleak feeling! T had never been to Bocktown. This time we didn't get any fresh-cut fries. I enjoyed a very tasty Bocktown Burgher, but I substituted chicken for the burger. It comes with cheese, pepper bacon, BBQ sauce, and fried onions on a very delicious thick sliced & grilled Italian bread. Yum!

SP had the salmon-Stilton salad special and a cup of she-crab soup. The salad had lots of large hunks of blue cheese and a large piece of salmon on top. The soup was tasty, too. T also had the crab soup and for his meal he enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich. Another tasty meal at Bocktown.

A very nice Saturday afternoon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Te Cafe

Today is a gray, cold, windy, snow flurrying day. Ugh! I'm not ready for this! Just 2 days ago I didn't need a jacket (just a warm sweater) and today I was wearing my winter coat and gloves! And I had the hood over my head!

I had a doctor appointment at Magee today. Yuck. I am never happy when I have to see this doctor, so SP does his best to cheer me up by taking me out for lunch and/or treats after the appointment. Today we both felt like we were still pretty stuffed from last night's Thanksgiving feast, so we decided to go to Te Cafe.

I've mentioned before how much I love Te Cafe. We entered the warm, cozy shop and browsed the tea specials. They were featuring several Black Tea Friday specials:We took advantage of the specials and purchased some Orange Spice and Pomegranate Rosehip loose teas for at home.

There also was a special Chocolate Pumpkin Spice tea listed on the chalkboard behind the counter. It sounded intriguing, but I was a bit apprehensive. I asked the guy working there what he thought of it. He said he had just decided this morning to try mixing those 2 black teas together and would I like a sample before ordering? Of course I would! It was tasty! So I got a cup of that tea, a biscotti, and a grilled cheddar & Swiss with tomato on country white bread. A yummy sandwich!I love cinnamon biscotti! Did I really need the cinnamon biscotti after last night's over-eating and with all the leftover pie? No. But I cannot pass up cinnamon biscotti.SP decided to snack on a Cashew Butter & Jelly on a multi-grain bread with his Kyoto Rose tea.We relaxed and enjoyed our treats before heading back out into the cold and off to a store.

Yes, a store. On Black Friday. UGH! Yesterday while cooking the Thanksgiving feast, someone (not me) dropped my camera while it was still turned on (and thus the lens was extended) and when it hit the kitchen floor, well you guessed it. It hit right on the open, extended lens and completely knocked the lens out of whack. It won't open, it won't close. It just makes a horrible, sick whirring noise.

Sigh. How can a food blogger blog without photos of food? And it's almost cookie baking time!!!! We spent some time yesterday researching camera ratings online at Consumer Reports. I wanted to actually play with a camera before getting one, so we went to Best Buy so I could play. I want a nice, easy, simple point & shoot camera - nothing fancy.

I found one I like, it got a good rating at Consumer Reports and is listed by them as recommended/best buy, and SP found it at a really good price today online so he ordered it for me. It should be here soon!

Meanwhile, I'll be using his camera - it's yucky, clunky, boxy, heavy, beat up, not as sleek and not as cool as my old camera or my new camera. But it'll do for now.

Thanksgiving Feast

Our Thanksgiving Feast For Two was lovely!

After lunch, we made the sausage stuffing. We did not use a recipe. This was our version of stuffing based on family word of mouth and what we remember of our family stuffings from when we grew up. I insist on sausage stuffing - to me, there is no other. Stuffing must have sausage.For the bread cubes, you can buy bread and toast it in a toaster or oven, or leave the bag open and let it go stale, or buy stuffing/crouton bread cubes at the store. This year, we bought Cellone's croutons. We always add celery and onion. This time we added crimini mushrooms as well. Here's everything cooking in the big sauce pan:Our seasonings: pepper, poultry seasoning, fresh chopped sage, and a dash or two of nutmeg. For years my grandma would joke to me about her 'secret ingredient' in the stuffing and one year she told me that her 'secret ingredient' was a dash or two of nutmeg. And of course we added chicken broth. Yum!!! The final result:We love green beans so we made a green bean casserole.At first I just wanted steamed green beans but then I saw this recipe on Food Network. We decided to loosely follow it. It called for portabellas and green beans.We blanched the beans, sauteed the onions & portabellas, combined all the veggies with sour cream in a casserole and baked it. We did not add the mozzarella or crushed corn flakes. It was delicious! The final casserole:The main dish: turkey! While I sauteed the stuffing sausage and vegetables, SP made the lemon butter and rubbed it on the turkey. Here's our turkey going in the oven:It took a lot longer than we expected for it to not have any cold spots - almost an hour longer!!! We let the skin get so dark because I don't eat it and SP eats only a bit of it, so it didn't matter if the skin got too crispy. Here it is out of the oven:Of course we made some gravy:SP also ate a baked yam.

With our delicious meal we enjoyed a lovely Coppola Sauvignon Blanc. Actually, I think we enjoyed the wine before the meal!

Dessert was the Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie that we made Wednesday night. After we cleaned up the turkey mess, SP made the topping. He beat together whipping cream, mascarpone, vanilla, and sugar.A very tasty pie - I'd definitely make this again.I liked it a lot more than regular pumpkin pie. I wish I hadn't been so full, I would have liked to eat more than one piece of pie!!!And then we sat on the couch feeling stuffed!! A very nice Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Or maybe I should say Happy Holiday Shopping? Look at today's newspaper:It stands up on it's own!!! It took a while to flip through all the ads - I was starting to wonder if there really was a newspaper!

Before I get to Thanksgiving food, I'll share some food goodies from yesterday.

On his way home from the vet (Loki is fine, just missing Hermes), SP stopped here:Dunkin' Donut treats! After lunch yesterday, we shared a pumpkin donut and a sour cream donut. Last night after all the errands and cooking, we shared a blueberry donut. Today I ate the French cruller and SP at the coconut one. I'm sure later this afternoon we'll polish off the jelly one!Yesterday afternoon & evening, we went out to do more errands. We went to Target, Pier One, Levin, Barnes & Noble, Michaels, Hallmark, and Bed, Bath & Beyond (we bought a real turkey roasting pan & rack). And Giant Eagle - of course we needed a couple last minute items for today.

We set off in late afternoon, so when we were still out & about at 6:30 pm and SP's blood sugar was going low, we decided to forget the frozen manicotti plan and instead I grabbed dinner from Panera and SP from Chipotle. We were leaving Pier One when we decided this and Panera & Chipotle are in that immediate area, so we could walk to them and quickly satisfy our tummies. I forgot to take a photo of SP's burrito, but I took one of my 'You Pick Two' Chicken Bacon Dijon panini & the new Vermont white cheddar macaroni & cheese.Very yummy mac & cheese! Panera didn't seem to mind that SP ate his Chipotle there.

We had to stop at Giant Eagle for 2 reasons: 1. We decided to brine the turkey so we needed molasses and 2. It was getting late and we still had to get the turkey brining and make the pie, so we decided to cheat and buy frozen pie crust.

I know, I know. How non-foodie of us. But we were running out of time and we think the frozen Pillsbury pie crusts are just fine, so we cheated. It made our lives so much easier last night.As soon as we got home, I unloaded all our purchases and put them away while SP got to work on the brine for the turkey.We decided on this recipe from Food Network's Dear Food Network Top 10 Thanksgiving Problems Solved show we watched. We have a 10 lb turkey and we decided to halve the brine recipe. There was enough liquid to submerge the turkey - if not, we would have made another half batch of brine. We omitted the garlic because of my garlic sensitivity. Here's the submerged turkey:It just fit into our side-by-side refrigerator:The turkey sat in the brine until we took it out around 9:30 this morning - just a bit over 12 hours. SP patted it dry and arranged it on our newly purchased roasting pan & rack. We plan to eat our Thanksgiving meal around 6 pm, so it'll be hanging out for a while.

After the turkey brine, we made our dessert: Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie from Bon Appetit's November 2007 issue. We debated between that and Spiced Pumpkin Phyllo Pie from the November 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. I can't remember why we chose the one with mascarpone but I suspect we decided to not mess with phyllo dough!!

Cheating with purchased pie crust saved a lot of time since homemade dough requires chilling time. Plus, we didn't have to worry about whether or not our dough was turning out too dry or too wet or too gummy. Mixing together the filling was quick and easy. I love the smell of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger - mmmmm. It baked for about an hour - here it is getting puffy in the oven:It cooled for about an hour and then we covered it with foil and put it in the refrigerator. After dinner tonight, we'll make the Whipped Cream & Mascarpone Topping.Later this afternoon we'll be roasting our turkey, making stuffing, baking yams, and making a green bean casserole. It's nice to be able to stay in our pajamas and not be all crazy/stressed preparing a meal for 14 people (that was last year).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Market District Dinner

The hits just keep on coming... literally, this time. This morning while waiting at a red light on his way into work, SP was rear-ended. He's OK. The car will need repairs. This is the second time this year that someone rear-ended him while he was stopped at a light. Sheesh. Our poor car - it just received $585 of repairs to pass inspection and now this!

It seems Thanksgiving is just not a good time of year for us. Today is the anniversary of last year's sewage pump disaster -- the disaster that nearly derailed Thanksgiving dinner (we weren't sure the pump would be repaired in time and we were hosting dinner for 14 people). The disaster that initial estimates said would cost us $10,000 to fix - yikes! We are thankful it only cost $4,700 (that time, anyway - there's been another $430 of fixes since then).

Thanksgiving is the time of year my mom had her mini-strokes and she spent the holiday in the hospital a few years ago. Thanksgiving is the last holiday my grandmother celebrated before she passed away. Thanksgiving is also birthday time for both my grandparents so they've been on my mind a lot (yesterday would have been grandpa's 88th birthday and tomorrow grandma's 88th). To me, Thanksgiving isn't just turkey and pumpkin pie but also lots of birthday cake since growing up we always celebrated their birthdays and Thanksgiving together.

On to happier topics: last night's tasty dinner, courtesy of the new Market District's prepared foods section. I mentioned before that on Sunday SP bought the substitute Mahi Mahi 'Dinner for Two' since they were out of the 'Eggplant Roll' special. I re-heated a piece of the mahi mahi for him. It had a seasoning on it and was covered with spaghetti squash and spinach.

SP said the mahi mahi was quite tasty and he like it being paired with the squash and spinach.

The 'Dinner for Two' special comes with two sides. SP chose a pasta salad and an asparagus-tomato salad. The pasta salad was yummy! Orecchiette with tomatoes, herbs, small bits of cheese - and no garlic!The asparagus salad was also tasty. There were pine nuts in it, a nice addition.I made myself breaded chicken for dinner. I cut one huge chicken breast into smaller pieces (nuggets, I suppose), breaded them (roll in breading, dip in egg, then back into the breading), browned them in vegetable oil, drained the nuggets, and then baked them. I love breaded chicken.There was still one turkey cookie for dessert. Sunday night for evening dessert we split this treat:A Key Lime Gourmet Cupcake from the Market District bakery. It was tasty - not as good as the chocolate-mint and chocolate-raspberry gourmet cupcakes, but a nice change from chocolate.

After dinner, we enjoyed our usual Monday evening routine: snuggling on the couch with tea and dessert while watching Heroes and Castle. Still not that interested in Heroes but love the humor in Castle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hermes

Sadly, Hermes the kitty cat passed away sometime early this morning. SP is very sad.

SP's friend is a vet. She checked Hermes last night, said it didn't look good and to bring him back this morning when she'd have all her assistants to help do lots of blood work and x-rays. She said to keep him warm since his temperature was low so SP bundled him up in towels and blankets last night. He checked on him several times.I mentioned I'm not fond of SP's cats. I don't know them that well. Hermes was 10 or 11 years old, so SP got him well before we got back in touch. What I do know is that they are not declawed and are fond of scratching furniture until the stuffing pops out or clawing at the door frame trying to break out (destroying the wood door frame) or scratching the carpet on the stairs until it's frayed and/or bald in patches. One or both of them poops outside the litter box.

Their fondness for scratching and not pooping in the box are reasons they are confined to the basement. When we moved in together, we bought lots of new furniture and we got new carpet in some rooms -- we didn't want the brand new stuff ruined.

So they are 'basement cats.' Or you could say 'man cave' cats since the basement is where SP's big TV and XBox and other 'toys' are. The basement is probably the size of the 2 bedroom apartment I had, so there is lots of room and there are lots of window ledges for the cats to sit on and peer out at the world. I don't spend much time in the basement, it's SP's 'playroom' and where the cats are, so I don't spend much time with the cats.

I am sad because SP is sad. To be honest, I won't miss Hermes, but SP will miss him. A lot. I feel awful that I was still sleeping when SP found Hermes. He didn't wake me up right away to tell me. When he did finally wake me, there were lots of tears and hugs.

I feel awful that Hermes suddenly got so ill - he was fine at lunchtime and then after the Steelers game he was ill. We've been torturing ourselves trying to figure out what could have made him so sick so quickly. I really hope he wasn't in too much pain, and I hope Loki stopped hiding and gave Hermes some kitty comfort during the night.

SP wrote on Facebook: "I'd like to think that if there's a cat heaven, Hermes is there now with a jumbo-sized catnip toy and lots of people to play "guess the hand" with." To that I add: a huge pile of food, easily accessible (not trapped in that darn container that won't even open when Hermes sends it crashing off the counter and onto the floor), and his favorite stuffed toys that are always right at the bottom of the stairs. And my mother's green chair. May he continue to scratch it all he wants.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lobster Sunday

Usually on Sunday evenings, after a nice meal, we are cuddled up on the couch with tea and treats, ready to watch The Amazing Race. Tonight, however, I find myself home alone, finishing a bottle of wine, and on the computer because I can't think what else to do. SP is out on an emergency vet visit as one of the cats seems quite ill (very lethargic and drooling/frothing at the mouth). I am not especially fond of SP's cats (they've destroyed a lot of my furniture and woodwork in the basement) but I don't want the little buggers to be in pain and sick.

Not to mention that the Steelers lost today. To the lowly Chiefs. Grrr.

And there's holiday stress. Lots of it. I wish I could fast forward to January and ignore the holidays. Much as I (usually) love the holidays, my holiday cheer is already squished and destroyed and I'm nearly at the point of not wanting to bother with anything - no Christmas tree, no baking cookies, no buying presents. Nothing. Screw it. Why must people try to manipulate and control and guilt others into doing things? That's not very holiday-like.

So you see, the wine is necessary. It's been a lousy Sunday. A lovely Chardonnay can cheer one up (or at least lull you to sleep where you forget all your woes!)!

This morning, SP went out to Giant Eagle to get 'Eggplant Roll' from the prepared food section. It was today's special - a signature entree with 2 sides, enough to feed two people for one small price. Unfortunately, by 11:30 am they were out of eggplant, so he instead bought the 'substitute specal' Mahi Mahi. Yuck. I'm not a fish person. But he did get some bakery goodies, one of which was this:Yup -the turkey chocolate chip cookie/icing concoction. We shared one during the Steelers game. It was pretty tasty, though it did have the usual Giant Eagle icing, the slightly grainy icing.

Tonight we steamed the lobster tails we bought at the new Giant Eagle Market District on Opening Weekend.We also made a Lemon Risotto, steamed broccoli, and olive oil-balsamic roasted brussel sprouts. The risotto turned out OK. Despite constant stirring and slow cooking, it seemed a bit crunchy, which was disappointing because we spent 40-50 minutes gradually adding broth and constantly stirring. Amazing lemon flavor, though.The lobster was quite tasty, as were the veggies. It was a delicious meal (even the slightly crunchy risotto - the lemon flavor was just so yummy!). We had a 'romantic dinner' - we lit 3 candles and plugged in our new Christmas window lights - dining by candlelight!!!Right before we took our last bites, SP received a call back from the vet so he rushed off with Hermes in the cat crate for a vet visit.

I'd definitely make the risotto again and hope it turns out less crunchy. The lobster was a very nice treat. A yummy dinner after a not-so-good Sunday!!

**Update: The vet doesn't know what's wrong with Hermes, so he's coming home tonight and SP will have to take him in early tomorrow morning so the vet and the lab techs can do more tests on him. His temperature is low for a cat and his tummy is sore since he flinches when it is touched.

Busy Saturday

Yesterday was a very busy day of running around! We set off a little bit before 3 pm with a list of errands. First stops, the post office and the Wine & Spirits store. We stocked up on wine for the holidays and we got to sample the Godiva Chocolate Liquor and Godiva White Chocolate Liquor - yum to both! We might have to indulge in the white chocolate for a recipe: Vanilla Bean Biscotti dipped in White Chocolate (spiked with the liquor!).

Then we went over to Lowe's to look at Christmas decorations. We didn't decorate outside last year -- we were the 'boring' people on the street. Last year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, everyone on our street (there's only 6 houses) did lots of exterior holiday decorating. Not us! This year, we decided to put candles in the windows. Lowe's didn't have the candles we were looking for, but we did buy a wreath for above the fireplace (the Japanese butterfly cross-stitch looks awfully out of place there once the Christmas decorations are out!).

Next up, our favorite store (HAHAHA) - WalMart. After stocking up on some items, we located the Optimus Prime Transformer and purchased it for my nephew. SP is awfully intrigued by it. I think he wants to take it out and play with it!!!

We were disappointed in our Target store's holiday decor. We also took a quick trip through DFO (going out of business sale) and then went to Pool City where we found our window candoliers!!! Pool City is where we got our Christmas tree last year (my tree was too large for our living room, we needed a slimmer tree, so now we have a spare tree in case we ever want to put one up in the basement, too).

Then we were off to Settlers Ridge. We browsed Learning Express looking for gift ideas for the niece/nephews and then ate dinner at Panera.

I mentioned last week that Panera was having several Grand Opening specials. SP stopped by on Thursday to take advantage of the 'Buy 3 Bagels Get 3 Free' special deal so I've been enjoying asiago cheese bagels. Last night was my first time inside. It's nice and big inside. There's a big 8-10 person table for larger groups and the fireplace is near couches/comfy chairs as well as tables. We ate at a table in front of the fireplace and as we were eating, employees came around with a 'Customer Appreciation' chocolate chip cookie for each person! Dessert! I had the Turkey-Artichoke Panini and a decaf latte.

SP enjoyed a "You Pick Two' of black bean soup and Chipotle Chicken sandwich with iced tea.

Again, opening special - we had a coupon for $3 off a You Pick Two!

After that it was time for Giant Eagle Market District. It wasn't super crowded, but we still had several near collisions with other carts! I really like the cup holders on the carts - I still had my Panera latte and I got to enjoy it while we shopped.

We were going to get a turkey breast for Thanksgiving but a 4-5 lb breast was priced at $16 while a 10-lb turkey was priced at $8 - so now the two of us will be enjoying a 10-lb turkey!!! We also got our stuffing and veggie and dessert ingredients. A couple interesting finds:

Sugar Cane! I'm not really sure how the home cook would use this sugar cane stalk, but it was neat to see it in the store.Rattlesnake, anyone? It can be special ordered!

And did I mention Grand Opening specials?! Giant Eagle has mailed out many, many coupons for the new store. Our groceries rang up at $67. After all the coupons, our bill was $39!!!

We got home and put everything away. SP put all the candoliers in the windows. Then we snuggled up with hot tea and Panera chocolate chip cookie and watched Flash Forward, Giada's Thanskgiving, and got sucked into watching the ends of 2 exciting college football games (Georgia's loss to KY and Oregan's 2OT win over Arizona).

A busy and productive Saturday! That means today we get to lounge around and watch football all day!